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Upon the wing, or in swift race contend,
By doom of battle; and complain that Fate
Free virtue should inthrall to force or chance.
Their song was partial, but the harmony
(What could it less when Spirits immortal sing ?) Suspended Hell, and took with ravishment
The thronging audience. In discourse more sweet 555 (For eloquence the soul, song charms the sense) Others apart sat on a hill retired,
In thoughts more elevate, and reason'd high
539. Typhoan-Typhoeus was one of the giants who warred against heaven.
542. Alcides-Hercules, so named from his ancestor Alcæus The allusion here made is familiar to every reader.
555. It has been observed, that Milton has here shewn the superiority of discourse and reasoning to song. The angels who reason are on a hill; those who sing are in a valley.-But it should have been observed, at the same time, that it is only when song is what Milton calls partial, or confined to selfish or ambitious themes, that it is thus inferior to, or different from high philosophy.
Passion and apathy, glory and shame,
Into the burning lake their baleful streams;
Heard on the rueful stream; fierce Phlegethon, 580
Lethe, the river of oblivion, rolls
Her wat'ry labyrinth; whereof who drinks,
Lies dark and wild, beat with perpetual storms
577. Milton follows the Greeks in this description of the infernal rivers; but, as usual, improves upon the classical idea, as he represents them as emptying themselves into a vast and fearful lake of fire. Styx, according to its derivation, signifies hate; Acheron, flowing with pain; Cocytus, lamentation; Phlegethon, burning, and Lethe, forgetfulness.
592. Serbonis was a lake two hundred furlongs long, and one thousand round, between Mount Casius and Damiata, a city in Egypt. It was sometimes so covered by the loose sand of the reighbouring hills, as not to be distinguished from the land. See Herod. I. 3. and Lucan. viii. 539.
$95. Frore, frosty.-See Virgil, Georg. i. 93. 21. Ps. cxxi. 6.
Ecclus. xlii. 20,
At certain revolutions, all the damn'd
Are brought; and feel by turns the bitter change
Of fierce extremes, extremes by change more fierce, From beds of raging fire to starve in ice
Their soft ethereal warmth, and there to pine
Periods of time, thence hurried back to fire.
Both to and fro, their sorrow to augment,
And wish and struggle, as they pass, to reach
The tempting stream, with one small drop to lose
All in one moment, and so near the brink;
But Fate withstands, and to oppose th' attempt 610
The ford, and of itself the water flies
In confused march forlorn, th' advent'rous bands 615
No rest. Through many a dark and dreary vale
Rocks, caves, lakes, fens, bogs, dens, and shades of
A universe of death, which God by curse
Created evil, for evil only good,
Where all life dies, death lives, and nature breeds,
Than fables yet have feign'd, or fear conceived,
Meanwhile the adversary' of God and Man, Satan, with thoughts inflamed of high 'st design, Puts on swift wings, and tow'rds the gates of Hell Explores his solitary flight. Sometimes
He scours the right hand coast, sometimes the left, Now shaves with level wing the deep, then soars Up to the fiery concave tow'ring high.
603. See Job xxiv. in the Vulgate translation.-See also Shakspeare Measure for Measure, Act iii.
611. Medusa, one of the Gorgon monsters.
As when far off at sea a fleet descry'd
Hangs in the clouds, by equinoctial winds
Of Ternate and Tidore, whence merchants bring
Ply stemming nightly tow'rd the pole. So seem'd
Far off the flying Fiend: at last appear
Hell bounds, high reaching to the horrid roof,
And thrice threefold the gates; three folds were brass, Three iron, three of adamantine rock,
Impenetrable, impaled with circling fire,
Yet unconsumed. Before the gates there sat
The one seem'd woman to the waist, and fair,
But ended foul in many a scaly fold
With wide Cerberean mouths full loud, and rung 655
636. A noble comparison. But Dr. Bentley asks why would not one ship do as well as a fleet! It has been answered, that many ships are a more noble figure than one. This, however, is only the case when so seen at a distance, that they may appear as one grand, dark, and sublime object. Ternate and Tidore are two of the Molucca Islands.
648. This is one of the most sublime passages in, the poem. Addison is generally ingenious in his criticisms, but not elevated, and when he objected to Milton's having introduced an allegory he shews that he was incapable of entering into the magnificent onceptions of his author. Sin and Death are not allegorical Deings in Paradise Lost; but real and active existences. They would have been allegorical, speaking or contending among men, but are not so in an abode of spirits, and addressing the Prince of darkness, see James i. 15.
661. Calabria, the extreme part of Italy towards the Mediter. rauean. Trinacria, an ancient name of Sicily.
With Lapland witches, while the lab'ring moon 665
If shape it might be call'd that shape had none
Or substance might be call'd that shadow seem'd,
And shook a dreadful dart. What seem'd his head
The likeness of a kingly crown had on.
Satan was now at hand, and from his seat,
To yonder gates? Through them I mean to pass,
To whom the goblin full of wrath reply'd,
Art thou that traitor Angel, art thou He,
665. It was formerly believed that the moon might be affected by incantations.
666. See Spenser, Faery Queen, Book vii. C. 7. 46.
678. The word except is here used with the same latitude as but
m ver. 333. 336.
693. Conjured, from the Latin conjurare, to conspire or leagu together.